Three Indian paddlers, two female and one male, made it to the singles main draw of the first ever World Table Tennis series event in India, WTT Star Contender Goa, as the two-day qualifiers concluded in Panaji at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium.
Teenager Yashaswini Ghorpade led the Indian qualifying charge, as all the three Indians took out higher ranked opponents across two matches in the day.
The main draws for WTT Star Contender Goa will be played from the 1st to 5th March.
Yashaswini, the youngest of the three qualifiers was also the first to go through in the women’s singles. She took out two Koreans on her way, first Cheonhui Joo, ranked 103, in round two and then Nayeong Kim, ranked 104. While it took her four games to beat Joo (3-1:11-7,11-6,9-11,11-8), Kim proved tougher and stretched the youngster to the full five games for a 3-2 (11-6,1-11,5-11,11-5,11-7) result. Yashaswini is currently ranked 196 in the world.
“I am qualifying for the first time in a star contender tournament and I am really happy. Beating a good player has helped me gain good experience which is such a great thing. I am thankful to my coaches and my parents and whoever supported me in today’s match,” said Yashaswini after her win.
The next Indian to go through was Sutirtha Mukherjee, presently ranked 147 in the world. She first blanked Chinese Taipei’s Li Yu-Jhun (world rank 92) 3-0 (11-9,11-8,11-6) in round two and then beat Korea world number 107 Eunhye Lee 3-1 (11-9,6-11,11-6,11-8), in round three to make the round of 64. While she meets compatriot Suhana Saini in the main draw, Yashaswini will be up against world number 38 Japanese Miyu Nagasaki.
Harmeet Desai was the lone Indian to qualify for the main draw from the men’s singles qualifiers. He was stretched to the hilt by both his opponents. First, German world number 99 Fanbo Meng took him the distance (3-2:11-5,11-13,11-9,9-11,9-11) and then 84th ranked Argentine Horacio Cifuentes, forced another 3-2 (11-7,9-11,11-7,8-11,11-5) result from the 29-year-old senior paddler from Surat.
“Playing at home definitely helps as there has been a lot of crowd support since the first match itself,” aid Harmeet.
“The games have been very competitive and that has kept me on my toes which also made me push myself more. I have played against these guys before and have lost to Horacio before, so I had my game plan before going into the game today. I am happy that my plan worked out well and I would like to continue this form in the main draw as well.”
In other qualifying results, Korea also grabbed two berths in the women’s singles, while Thailand bagged one when Orawan Paranang put it across India’s Reeth Tennison 3-1 (5-11,11-7,11-1,11-7) in round three of the qualifiers. England, Turkey and Hong Kong, China, took the other three women’s singles qualifying berths.
Korea also bagged two qualifying berths in the men’s singles, while Hong Kong, China, and Belgium also bagged a berth each. Hungarian Bence Majoros, ranked 112 in the world, caused an upset in the final game of the evening, when he beat Japan’s Mizuki Oikawa 3-2 (9-11,11-7,15-13,4-11,13-11).
Japan however, caused the upset of the day, when Yuta Tanaka took out the highest ranked in the qualifying draw, Xu Yingbin of China in four games (3-1: 11-9, 10-12,11-6,14-12) to make the main draw. Another interesting men’s third-round qualifying match saw two young bespectacled athletes fight it out, 16-year-old French talent Felix Lebrun emerged the winner at the end of it, to land the prize of a main draw berth when he defeated Manush Shah of India 3-1 (12-10,5-11,11-8,11-6) in their round three qualifier.